Chapter 8. Illustrators

William was uncategorizable

William was uncategorizable. His beliefs were unconventional and his gifts were multifarious. He made a living as an artist, but he was devoted to his own work which was difficult to sell. He was a man of his time; he objected to subjugating conventions and reached for eternal truths. Innocence is tinged by sin; experience is surrounded by paradise. The same God made both lamb and lion.

John’s usual subjects weren’t innocent

John drew for Punch but he could put aside his scathing political cartoons and draw the innocent Alice and the creatures of her fevered dreams. He had a photographic memory, but none of his Alice could be drawn from memory.

Arthur’s detail made goblins real

Arthur’s detail makes his fairies and goblins believable. His gnarled vegetation and grotesque creatures in ragged garments rivaled the intricacy of nature.

Maxfield painted over the private parts

Maxfield painted hundreds of androgynous nudes in beautiful landscapes. He built scale models of imaginary landscapes and experimented with lighting and camera angles, and based his paintings on photographs after he got them just right. He achieved his luminous Parrish blue skies using numerous layers of glazes. He posed his models, photographed them, reproduced them to scale, glued the photos on his canvases, and painted over them. He painted hundreds of nudes but never nipples nor pubic hair.

Maybe Norman understood

Norman idealized small-town integrity and honesty to sell Boy’s Life, and The Saturday Evening Post. You’d wonder whether he believed in his own sugar coating. Maybe his painting, “The Problem We All Live With,” depicting Ruby Bridges, six years old, being escorted to a white school by U.S. marshalls past a wall painted with racial slurs, showed that he understood.